In the mid-1990s, preservationists averted potential disaster when they forced the Walt Disney corporation to scrub plans for a proposed history-oriented theme park in the Manassas area. (Joan Zenzen’s interesting Battling for Manassas outlines the battlefields long preservations struggles.)
Fortunately, the Civil War Trust has done some great stuff to preserve some key spots at Manassas. However, even their best efforts can’t stem the inexorable tide of suburban development that continues to reach north from the city of Manassas itself as well as west from Washington, D.C. The area beyond the battlefield to the west, around Groveton, has blossomed into strip malls, subdivisions, and highway interchanges, too.
“As with virtually all Eastern parks, Manassas vividly demonstrates that what goes on outside the boundaries of a park can have a profound effect on the quality of the experience inside the park,” says historian John Hennessy, author of Return to Bull Run, the definitive study of the battle of Second Manassas. “Manassas is in one major way fortunate: it has a large, round land base. When you’re in the heart of the park, even five decades from now, development will be well beyond the tree line, largely beyond visual impact.
“But still, that development will ultimately threaten the viability of the park by the traffic it will generate. If the immense traffic that travels the Route 29 and 234 corridors is not somehow redirected, eventually the pressure to widen those roads will be beyond resistance. And that will be the death of the park as we know it—true disaster.”